Charlotte artist Greg Barnes has pursued art in his life in many ways, oscillating between the studio and taking his work on the road, creating works and teaching workshops.
Greg Barnes graduated from Wake Forest University with a Bachelors in Fine Art before moving on to jobs in fields like technical illustration, printing, computer graphics, and multimedia programming. Today, he travels the country to sell his art at fine art festivals, teach pastel workshops, and participate in plein air (outdoor painting) events.
Barnes’ art is a combination of impressionism and realism, often focused on landscapes. His is a style of working he describes as “quick and loose” done primarily with soft pastels in an attempt to capture a fleeting moment in nature.
Barnes’ work has been featured in a variety Carolina galleries including City Art in Greenville NC and Karis Art Gallery in Hilton Head. His work has also been showcased on a Charlotte billboard through the popular ArtPop project.
Greg Barnes shared more with us about his process and what led him to where he is today.
The Q & A With Charlotte Artist Greg Barnes
What inspired you to foray into the art world?
Art class was always my favorite while in elementary and high school. When it came time to declare a major in college, I chose fine art. In 2002, 15 years after graduating college, I made the choice to pursue a career as a fine artist.
How did your minor in Biology impact your artwork?
Another favorite subject in my early years was biology; I loved nature and the study of all things living. I used to spend hours in the woods just exploring and searching for different creatures and plants. These experiences created a strong link to the plein air aspect of my painting habits. My favorite thing is to be outside capturing the beauty of nature.
What is your process, from start to finish, like?
My process has gotten refined over the past several years. For the first 5-10 years, I would paint almost every day. Combined with the painting, I would study works of artists I admired, always asking myself why I liked their work. With all that information percolating inside me, it became easier and easier to produce work that I was happy with.
My actual process begins with a quick pencil sketch to locate the main shapes and composition. I quickly dive in by finding the darkest shapes, creating a silhouette of the scene. Other values and colors are blocked in before smudging the first layer with a paper towel to consolidate all the shapes. From there, I continue to work around the main areas, slowly adding details where I want the eye to move. Typically I will sign the piece when it “feels” like it’s getting close to a finish. I’ve found that it’s always better to stop sooner than later to avoid overworking the piece.
How did your jobs in tech illustration and the like prepare you for your current career?
Those early jobs out of college helped me mostly with the administration part of being an artist. I got proficient at several graphics programs like Photoshop, which I now use to scan and document all my original paintings. From there, I’m able to produce high quality prints and marketing materials for my business.
Tell us about the traveling side of your work.
Traveling and seeing new places has always been high on my list of loves. Being able to pair that love of travel with my art career was a dream come true. Once I began painting outdoors, I couldn’t get enough of the variety that traveling provides. Different landscapes provide different challenges, and being able to study those varying subjects through plein air painting has only strengthened my abilities in recreating them.
Visit Charlotte artist Greg Barnes at barnesstudio.com